Is Choosing Project Management As Your Career Right For You?

Massive disruptions have been caused globally by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to several analyses, governments are going to spend around $10 trillion in ten years on reconstruction projects. This implies that there will be zillions of projects within the decade that are put into production and each will need a project manager.

Jobs in the field of project management are already plentiful. Give an immediate search on the LinkedIn portal and you will see thousands of positions popping up. In the US, there are around half a million positions open for this role currently. These are a few of the indicators that show that the economy of the project will stay here.

If you are interested in this career, then it’s an incredible time now to start knowing about this field, what it puts up with to land the project management job, and whether you are going on the right path.

Let’s begin with the basics.

A person who is answerable for the everyday management of an assigned project is known as the project manager. Consider this role as the football coach, a CEO, or the chef d’orchestre of an interim team that is working to build, manage, and track the project from beginning to end. Almost every industry – starting from tech to publishing to retail – needs people who have this skill set. You could get a project manager job at a big corporation or a startup. You could work as a consultant, full-time, or be a freelancer.

One big advantage of being in this profession is that the required skills are transferable. Often project managers have the feasibility to move easily between industries. For instance, you can easily move from the consulting industry to banking or work in the pharma or telecom industry. You will get a chance to manage a variety of projects.

Understanding all these, you might have a question in your mind, “Whether you can do this?”

The answer will be – yes. You might not possess all the required skills now but eventually with dedication, passion, and perseverance, anyone can become an excellent project manager. Let me try to answer a few questions that you might have in your mind, whether you are newly graduated or you are someone who is in the early phases of your career.

1) What does the project manager do?
In the deepest sense, the project managers will be responsible for organizing, planning, and managing the project’s completion while assuring that it will deliver the expected outcomes on time, within budget, and in scope.

The exact responsibilities of the project manager depend on their organization, industry, and the kinds of projects the manager is aligned with overseeing. But all project managers will share the tasks across what’s referred commonly to “project life cycle”. The “project life cycle” consists of four different phases.

● Initiating: As a project manager you start the project by defining the business case, its purpose, its benefits, and then its foremost scope (that is the requirements for what a project will deliver). It comprises identifying the individuals or the groups or the key stakeholders who will be influenced by the project, comprising both customers and employees. All of these go into creating a project charter, the technical name used for the detailed proposal.
● Planning: When the sponsor of the project (it may be your boss or a person from the senior management) consents to the project charter, typically you will work with the team of professionals who are assigned by your organization to describe the scope of your project and create an immense plan of action. Next, you will come up with the key deliverables, major obstacles or risks you may face, and deadlines, and you set the budget among the other factors.
● Executing and monitoring: Being a project manager, it’s your responsibility to make sure that the members of your team are motivated and will finish the work specified in your project plan. Don’t confuse this job with the people manager. A project manager does need some skills in people management but only to the extent of building an enormously productive team and guiding that team to complete the project successfully. Your team might consist of people from different departments who report to other people.
● Closing: Your role being a project manager will be to finish the project on time as planned and then deliver the promised outcomes. Looking back at all the business facts, thanking your team, giving individual feedback, and acquiring the lessons learned, all are part of this vital last phase.

2) What are the basic skills that I require to apply for the project manager role?
You are required to have a combination of soft skills, technical know-how, hard skills, and a basic knowledge of all business landscapes in which you need to be operating.

● Soft skills
Here you need to learn how to communicate well, actively listen to stakeholders and colleagues, and motivate your team. All these skills we frequently pick up at our schools, for instance by collaborating with associates on presentations, participating in debates, organizing an event, or navigating a field trip. Still, they could dull without practice easily, so they must be honed continuously.

Below is the overview of a few of the relevant ones and also tips to practice those:

● Emotional Intelligence: It is the capability to sense your emotions and also those of others. Have a regular assessment with yourself to analyze a few of the below questions:
What influences me to bring in progress?
How do I cope with negative thoughts when they arise?

Seek out the aid of your coach or demand 360⁰ feedback to obtain a powerful understanding of your growth.
● Critical thinking: It is logical, rational thinking. It will help you to determine the root cause of any given case. To hone this proficiency, you need to pay attention to the assumptions that you may make while executing any project. Make sure that you pull out conclusions based on the evidence and not on biased incidents.
● Decision-making: It is critical as well as it helps you in reasoning and choosing the finest course of action. To become better at this particular skill, you need to be considerate before you choose the direction you take. Use the questions such as: Should the decision have to be made by the team or by me? If it has to be made by the team then should it need a majority vote or an unanimous vote?
● Influence: It is the capability to persuade or inspire other people. As the project manager, you should know how you can motivate people without having any authority over them. Seize some time to meet them one-on-one and understand their objectives. Use what you understand to tie their benefaction back to the purpose that motivates them.

Don’t forget that you can’t acquire your team members’ skills overnight. You need to be persistent and patient.

Hard skills
You require a better understanding of basic concepts, tools, and methods of project management that help you to prepare a reliable plan for the project, manage project risks, or specify the stakeholders of the project.

Most of the universities now offer courses in project management but you can even learn the basic concepts by enrolling yourself in courses that are available online, listening to the podcasts on the particular subject, and watching the related webinars to be up-to-date if there are any new outgrowths.

You could even learn a lot from the people who are carrying out the job you need. If you are interested in this role, then reach out to the project managers who are in your company or those in the social circle for all the informational interviews. You could ask the below questions with them:
● How did you take training to be the project manager?
● How are you keeping the knowledge updated? Are there any particular courses you would like to suggest?
● What are the vital things that are required to be observant as a beginner?
● Are there any other suggestions for me from your end?

Once you gain experience of a few years, you should have a certification in project management. Two good options for you are those which have been offered by the PMP (Project Management Professional) which is from PMI (Project Management Institute) and the Axelos, PRINCE2 Foundation Project Management Certification. Possessing a professional and popular accreditation opens up the doors to more assignments in project management and pushes your career forward.

Technical know-how
You should also be required to have a basic knowledge of the technical factors that are involved in your project. For instance, if you are enforcing the new HR application, then you should take time to comprehend a few technical factors of the software, such as phases of development, tools of configuration, or how it has been tested and integrated.

It’s not required to be an expert in technical aspects; an absolute level of understanding gives you certain credibility with the stakeholders and your team. It will even help you in justifying the course of action while talking to the sponsor. If you have an interest in projects that are centered on the industry or topic you have less familiarity with, then you can take any introductory course, talk to the subject matter experts so that you can learn more, or read the literature on that particular topic. For instance, you may say that you are new to this field and you don’t aspire to be a technical specialist like them but you would want to have a basic understanding of X, hence you could be effective in your new role and be helpful to the members of your team. Would they mind meeting you to share more insights?

You shouldn’t make this a one-off exercise. Ensure that you make a plan to maintain your technical knowledge updated depending on which project you will work on.

The basic insight of all the business landscapes

It is essential to connect the outcomes of the project to the strategic goals and concrete business challenges of your organization for project success and buy-in. When this connection is made, stakeholders and senior management will support the project more as they will be able to notice that the project will contribute to the organizational priority.

For instance, if your company works in the field of social development, and you are told to handle a project to enhance access to schooling in Mauritania, then you must know about various educational systems – which educational systems are more successful, why, and what are the alternatives best fit the particular requirements that the project needs to address.

When you do this work, it will help you define your project in a better way and understand how the purpose of it fits the priorities of your organization. In addition to this, when you are capable of putting together these connections and demonstrating them to the members of your team, you bring a lot more purpose to the work they do.

3) What are the types of opportunities obtainable in project management?
The roles of project manager takes various job titles: delivery manager, project manager, product manager, agile coach, and scrum master. The titles vary based on the region or country you are in. What’s important here is that you should be able to understand the responsibilities, requirements, and influence of your position so that you can bring in informed conclusions.

According to the analysis of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics info, the fastest and largest project management-oriented growth in employment will be in the field of software development – between 2019 and 2030 a 14% projected increase will happen. Much of the growth arrives from the growth of IT security, mobile applications, and the rise in technology in health care.

The current leading sectors are construction and manufacturing, publishing and information, insurance, and finance. Four-fifths of employment growth in project management will occur in South Asia and China alone when you consider growth by region.

There isn’t any unique playbook. Success in your career doesn’t only decrypt into climbing the hierarchy of your organization, you can consider exploring the other development paths as well, like participating in frontline, strategic projects or leading the global project team. Such experiences could be both rewarding.

4) How to figure out which organizations have promising opportunities?
Project management opportunities can be found in all kinds of industries. Yet which is the right one for you? Below are a few questions you can inquire about to guide the decision you make:
● Do you issue certifications/training to enable the project managers to build the latest skills?
● Are the project managers dedicated completely to the projects, or does their role involve extra responsibilities?
● What kind of projects would I be managing/working: technology, internal, strategic, or customers?
● What is the typical scale of all your projects – regional, global, or local?
● What is the typical teams’ size and what will be the budgets of the projects?
● Who are the sponsors of the project I would be briefing to?
● How do you assess the performance of the project managers?
● What does the career path of the project managers will be like at the company?
● If I become successful, will you offer me the opportunity to handle multiple projects or large projects in the same period?

5) Should I have to be specialized in a single area or will I be able to manage different types of projects?
This question is asked very often. The answer will be: initially “yes”, but it’s a “no” in the long span.

As an early career professional or a fresh graduate, we recommend choosing the project in your field of expertise so that you can boost your self-confidence and maximize your rate of success. When you acquire more experience in the project management field, you will get the following choices: remain in the same type of projects, stay in the same firm but in a distinct technical field, or you can move to different domains.

When you start applying for a fresh job, your technical expertise, your experiences, and your project certification determine your success. You can grow and develop your career in the field of project management by learning continuously.

Becoming an outstanding project manager doesn’t mean only your technical expertise, experiences in the area, or certification in project management. It’s all about the chance to boost your learning and build a strong relationship with the stakeholders. By taking up a career in the project management field, you will make a tiny contribution to molding a better tomorrow for society – which is more vital at present than ever before.